Chinese New Year: Year of the Horse

Chinese New Year (or as it’s known in China, “New Year”) is the most important holiday in Asian culture. Also termed Lunar New Year, the auspicious event is actually part of a 15-day celebration called the Spring Festival. Always in January or February, the exact date varies from year to year depending on its position in the Chinese lunisolar calendar. Each year is linked with one of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. Galloping in on January 31, 2014: The Year of the Horse.

Chinese New Year

But enough chitchat. Let’s get this party started.

Just as in the West, New Year's Eve is a time for friends, family and festivity. Gifts are exchanged, foods prepared and eaten, celebrations abound—and the whole night ends with a bang. But whether your celebration is planned for New Year's Eve, New Year's Day or any other of the 15 days of Spring Festival, here are a few things you'll want to do.

  • Clean house (duh). Sweeping away any bad chi/energy from the past year is crucial. Not recommended: Cleaning during the first few days of the New Year—you might sweep out the new good stuff along with the old bad stuff.
  • Decorate with lots of red (the color of good fortune). Windows and doors may be hung with red paper-cuts and couplets displaying popular themes of good fortune and happiness. Large paper lanterns add a festive touch. And don’t forget to fill your home with flowers—real or faux—to ensure luck and prosperity in the coming year.
  • Big idea: Take it up a notch (or actually down a notch) with a lower, traditional Asian-style table. Creating one might be easier than you think. Use end-table bases instead of a conventional dining-table base and cover with a tempered glass top. Scatter thick cushions for guests, and you’ve got a setting that’s a true ice-breaker. A cozy, casual ice-breaker.
Chinese New Year Decoration: Horse Chinese New Year Decoration: Flower
  • Serve up as many lucky foods as possible: Whole fish, noodles, mandarin oranges and tangerines, to name a few. Don't feel like cooking? Most Chinese restaurants offer special New Year menus. On New Year's Eve, families sit around the table and wrap dumplings in the shape of ancient Chinese silver and gold ingots, which symbolize wealth. A gold coin is tucked inside one dumpling and at midnight, the person who gets it is said to have good luck for the coming year.
  • Launch fireworks at midnight. Constricted by pesky city ordinances? (Oh hello there, officer.) Tune into televised local or national displays instead. The Chinese believe the more fireworks, the luckier the New Year. And they should know. They invented the stuff.
  • Karaoke. 'Nuff said.
  • Have fun. Remember, the most important Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone. Gong hay fat choy!
Chinese New Year: Pot Stickers Chinese New Year: Dinnerware
Are you a Horse?
For most people, birth year is all it takes to know whether you’re an adventurous Horse or a quick-witted Rat. Those born around the time of the New Year may need to consult a multiyear Chinese calendar to determine their exact astrological sign.
Horse
Horse:
1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014
Adventurous, witty, cheerful, agile
Sheep
Sheep:
1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003
Tasteful, warm, shy, calm
Monkey
Monkey:
1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004
Clever, versatile, lively, self-assured
Rooster
Rooster:
1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005
Practical, flamboyant, meticulous, confident
Dog
Dog:
1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006
Loyal, affectionate, steady, sociable
Pig
Pig:
1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007
Honorable, philanthropic, optimistic, sincere
Rat
Rat:
1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008
Intelligent, sociable, forthright, artistic
Ox
Ox:
1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009
Hardworking, reliable, strong, determined
Tiger
Tiger:
1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010
Enthusiastic, courageous, ambitious, charismatic
Rabbit
Rabbit:
1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011
Trustworthy, virtuous, modest, compassionate
Dragon
Dragon:
1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012
Lucky, imaginative, eccentric, vibrant
Snake
Snake:
1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013
Philosophical, intuitive, elegant, profound